1. The intention, intention, intention
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings are upon him, said, “Verily, deeds depend upon intentions. Indeed, every person will be rewarded based on their intentions…” (Bukhari and Muslim).
On the surface, studying for exams may seem like a necessary chore, its purpose murky and meant only to move on to the next level of education. It’s easy to fall into auto-pilot and not really think about why we’re doing it.
In reality, seeking knowledge can be a way for us to grow in closeness to God by better understanding the world He has created. Making this intention will give us the motivation we need at difficult times when we want to put off studying. It will also help when we become discouraged trying to understand a difficult topic.
With good intentions, routine things that may not look religious otherwise become sources of reward in the eyes of God, the Merciful.
2. Make prayers your pegs
Time management is key to studying in the most effective way for exams. While everyone is unique in how, where, and when they study, it’s best to build a schedule that works around essential tasks. Most important among these is the five daily prayers.
For example, many students prefer studying in the night. If you’re one of them, then plan to study between Maghrib and midnight, ending your day with Isha.
Alternatively, if you’re more of a morning person, praying Fajr right when the timer starts, then studying until you have to get ready for school later in the morning may work better for you.
Make note of the start times for prayers in the coming weeks and plan your study schedule around them.
3. Dua before, during, and after
“And your Lord says, ‘Call upon Me; I will respond to you’” (Quran 40:60). God is always there to hear our pleas and to seek help from our difficulties. At every turn, at every point, especially when struggling to understand a unit of study or subject we struggle with, make Dua. Turn to Him and ask Him directly. He knows all, but saying your Duas in a way that is relevant to you will ease some of your stress. Some examples:
- Oh God, help me get a five on my AP exam!
- Oh Allah, help me understand this section on tectonic plates!
- Oh God, help me remember all of my physics formulas during the exam!
- Oh Allah, help me write an excellent essay in the written word section!
4. Take advantage of Tahajjud time
The last part of the night, right before dawn, is considered a blessed time. In the Quran, Allah says, “Lo! The vigil of the night is (a time) when an impression is a keener and speech more certain” (73:6). This is when Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings are upon him, would perform the Tahajjud prayer.
Go to bed right after praying Isha and wake up an hour or two before Fajr starts. Use this blessed time to really focus and concentrate when studying, especially for those subjects you find most difficult.
Another benefit of getting up right before dawn is that it’s one of the best times to make Dua. The Prophet said, “Our Lord descends each night to the nearest Heaven when only the last third of the night remains and says: ‘Is anyone praying that I may answer him? Is anyone seeking forgiveness, that I may forgive him? Is anyone asking, that I may give to him?’, and this continues until dawn” (Tirmidhi).
5. Space out your studying – like your prayers
Imagine we crammed all five prayers of the day into one hour. It wouldn’t really help us remember Allah as well the rest of the day. The periodic reminders of God are far more effective than remembering in one shot.
The same is true with the information we want to remember for an exam. Spacing out study sessions is better than cramming at the last minute, whether it is the day before the test or a week.
One way to do this is to study just 15 minutes after each prayer. You could quickly scan and review a short chapter or a section. Or for essays, write free form for 15 minutes on a topic covered in the textbook.
6. Do as you would with the Quran – learn, teach, relearn
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings are upon him, said, “The best among you are those who learn the Quran and teach it” (Bukhari).
Learning about any topic, then teaching it, has been found to enhance understanding.
Finding a study partner is one way to do this. Take turns being the teacher and the student. Another alternative is to teach what you’ve learned, whether it’s a section in a chapter or a math or science formula, to a younger sibling, even a parent or grandparent